The University of Gloucestershire is proud to sponsor this year’s prestigious Cheltenham Poetry Festival. There is so much for everyone. The Festival kicks off on Wednesday 18 April at 8:00pm at the Bottle of Sauce and The Railway with Barroom Bards, an evening of crapulent poetry presided over by the gods of wine and Dr Mike Johnstone, not necessarily in that order. Read all about this year’s events over at the Creative Writing blog.
The full festival programme is here.
English students recently went to see Pacifists and Protesters at the Parabola Arts Centre. The production brought to life the little-known story of suffragette and anti-war campaigner Alice Wheeldon, who was sent to prison during the First World War on the charge of attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister. Wheeldon’s real crime was sheltering conscientious objectors, and the play showed how the evidence against her was fabricated by a secret agent, leading to some dramatic courtroom scenes in which Alice and her family were brought up against the full legal force of the government of the day. Alice was eventually released after going on hunger strike, but sadly died not long after. The production concluded with a devised piece that combined physical theatre and music with the words of poets, pacifists and protesters.
On 24 January the School of Liberal and Performing Arts’s first Dissertation Day brought together third year students from across the courses to present their work in progress, to share expertise and ideas, to engage students and members of the public in discussion, and to show first and second year students (for whom the Dissertation may seem a long way off) what it means to study and research independently.
The marvellous School House Cafe https://schoolhousecafe.co.uk/ (on Twitter: @shccheltenham) provided the venue, along with coffee and lovely cakes. People dropped in, or stayed for one of the two sessions. It was a truly interdisciplinary event, as several visitors remarked; researchers had drawn on a really impressive range of sources and methodologies. Moreover, so many students revealed formidable skills in art and design – even in music – as well as subject-specific ones. Creative Writing students showcased original material alongside their research resources. I was especially delighted to see that a number of students had created original artwork, including hand-lettering, painting and collage.
It would take too long to summarise all the presentations, and it wouldn’t be fair to single any out, but they’re listed on the programme.
Every student I spoke to said that creating the poster helped them to clarify and order their ideas, and thus had a direct impact on the writing and researching process. Anne Johnston told me that when she made the poster, her complex and sometimes disparate ideas just ‘fell into place’.
Many, many thanks go to Arran Stibbe and Vicky Lethbridge for organising the event; Charlotte Dover for publicity; Joel Bayliss for photography; everyone who helped out on the day; and to Jane Cantwell, Head of School, for her generous sponsorship of the event and judging of the posters. Most of all, we thank the students who presented their work, and the students and members of the public who came to support the event.
Students on our third year Modern and Contemporary American Literature module will be speeding into the new semester via an exploration of Jack Kerouac’s classic work of Beat literature On the Road. Legend has it that the author typed the book on a continuous sheet of typewriter paper stuck together so he would not have to pause in the composition of his ‘spontaneous prose’. Here’s an example from the book:
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live with, mad to talk, made to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…
Here’s a quick look back to 2017, when students on our 19th Century American Literature module had the chance to visit the American Museum near Bath. The texts we’d covered at that point included Native American Literature and short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, so it was great to see some Native American weaving and beadwork, as well as a tavern from Massachusetts that had been reconstructed in the museum’s basement (complete with an open fire and beds to sleep three). There were also some parallels that could be drawn between the museum’s folk art collection and the ‘folk’ aspects of Hawthorne’s short story ‘Young Goodman Brown’ that we’d been studying. In addition to the displays and exhibits relating to the 19th century and earlier, we saw an exhibition of elegant Jazz Age dresses and photographs which was great for those students planning to take our 20th century American literature module next year!
The Laura Brereton Prize is awarded annually to an English Literature student who made an outstanding contribution to the course. Loz Apperley, BA Hons English Literature and Creative Writing (Class of 2017), is this year’s recipient. Dr Paul Innes presented Loz with the prize at the School of Liberal and Performing Arts’s Graduation tea and prizegiving in the Chapel, Francis Close Hall. Many congratulations, Loz; we’re extremely proud of you.
Class of 2017, we salute you. Every one of you made a unique contribution to English at the University of Gloucestershire. We wish you every success for the future. And please stay in touch by joining our Facebook group, following us on Twitter @EnglishGlos, or better yet, come back and visit us.
Students and staff from across the School went to see Aphra Behn’s great Restoration play The Rover at the RSC Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, last Wednesday. Second-year English Literature student Anne Johnston reviews the play below. The photo is courtesy of Aman Atwal, who took some great photos for our gallery. Our thanks to both students.
On a cold night in February a small group ventured out to Stratford Upon Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Rover written by Aphra Benn, England’s first female professional playwright, and directed by Loveday Ingram. As soon as we took our seats we were transported to ‘the fast and furious world of the South American carnival’. While the play is originally set in Naples, Ingram and stage designer Lez Brotherston decided to set the play in a South American port city. This allowed them to use a South American style of music, composed by Grant Olding, which sets the atmosphere and keeps it going throughout the production. The frenzied carnival atmosphere was constantly present, sometimes in the forefront of the production with a flourish of petticoats and rhythmic dances. And sometimes quietly in the background, with a single saxophone humming in the wings – but always present, reminding the audience of the setting as well as keeping the tone of the production at a fun, sensual level. The play follows three English cavaliers who cross paths with three young women running from an arranged marriage, life in a convent and a controlling brother. This Restoration comedy is fantastically witty and full of adventure. It’s about sex, deception and varying types of love. All hilariously intertwined and culminating in an uplifting happily ever after ending – assuming all the marriages end well!
Photos are reproduced for educational purposes only.
To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, and to meditate on the question of how life can go on in the face of annihilation, here is a song from the Łódź ghetto. You can hear a recording at Music and the Holocaust.
Close Your Eyes
Lyrics: Isaiah Shpigl
Melody: David Beyglman
Close your little eyes,
Little birds are coming,
The head of your cradle.
Baggage in hand
Our home in ashes
We are setting out, my child
In search of luck.
God has closed off the world
And night is all around
Waiting for us,
Full of horror and fear.
The two of us stand here
In this difficult, difficult, moment
Not knowing where
The road leads.
Naked and bare
We were chased from our home
Driven into the fields;
And storm, hail and wind
Have accompanied us, my child
Accompanied us into
The abyss of the world.
Translation from Yiddish